Debbie Justice | Developing A Child’s Very Best Self
In a small colorful room in The Learning Center for Families, a smiling little toddler neatly sorts plastic toys into their colors. Yellow, blue, red, and purple rings are filled with ducks, trucks, and foam blocks. She’s barely two-years-old. This the legacy that Debbie Justice has built the in the last 22 years.
Debbie Justice moved to southern Utah from South Central Los Angeles because she felt like the area was a safer place to live and to practice her trade. Immediately after arriving, she started the Learning Center for Families. Debbie originally began the center to serve infants and toddlers with special needs, but over the years the center expanded to also serve pregnant women and children up to the age of five-years-old.
“We started with just 18 families. But then we are able to procure grants and contracts to provide different kinds of services,” Debbie said. “We went from 3 employees to the time when I retired, we had close to seventy. It became really fascinating to move through that journey.”
From the outside, you might expect that the center was mainly there to serve special needs children, but Debbie truly believes a large part of what they do is serving the parents.
“A child depends on their parents,” Debbie explains. “I would tell people that would say ‘Oh, I would love to come work for TLC. I love babies’ and I’m thinking that was nice, but you had better like their folks. Because babies are attached to their parents who are attached to their communities. We ask the parents what they want to see. What challenges they want their child to be able to accomplish.”
Debbie is retired now. She finds herself bumping into people she had helped as a toddler who are now grown adults at doctor’s offices and grocery stores. She calls it a feedback loop. These individuals are now helping her in retirement.
Debbie concludes, “I just feel lucky that families would allow us to go on this journey with them, to promote their child’s very best self.”